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80-year-old public housing complex scheduled for remodel after $35 million federal grant

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Posted at 10:25 PM, May 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-27 01:11:44-04

CLEVELAND — If the walls of Woodhill Homes could talk, they’d tell the stories of hundreds of Cleveland families hoping for change they say is long overdue.

“It’s small for me and my daughter. It’s small. Like, you get real crowded real fast,” Latasha Spencer said. “I have at least about five or six work order numbers. You have to put in the work orders and then they to come out within a week or two. They never screen it or it never gets fixed.”

Rebirth is on the horizon for the Buckeye-Woodhill area after a $35 million grant from the federal government.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded the Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority and the city of Cleveland the multi-million dollar grant to make improvements to the neighborhood.

“That's pretty much all I do, you know, just work and come back home. As far as the stores and stuff like that, we don't have that,” resident Marlene Smith said. “It's a lot of shootings and stuff like that so we don't get to hang out like we should.”

Debbie Wilber of Case Western Reserve University said securing the grant was a collaborative effort between HUD, Mayor Frank Jackson, Cleveland Metropolitan School District, CMHA, and the Cleveland Division of Police.

“Woodhill Homes was built roughly 80 years ago. While it was really appropriate housing at the time, it's been difficult to keep up with the maintenance for the building,” Wilber said. “It is past its prime and really needs to be removed and a new, appropriate, decent housing built in its place. This community has been asking for change for a long time.”

One resident who wanted to remain anonymous said the housing complex is barely livable.

“It's a great idea because the estate is outdated. A lot of my neighbors said that they don't even have showers. That's very obsolete to not have a shower,” the resident said. “Our health is not that good because if we go to the neighborhood stores, it's all junk food.”

The project, which will take years to complete, is set to break ground this fall.

“I think it's going to allow us to revitalize that community, do a lot of new development, and really have an impact on what's going on in that area. It means new housing opportunities. It means new programing, programing that can help lead to self-sufficiency,” Jeffery K. Patterson said. “More digital access, more digital inclusion, more ability to be able to have different types of training opportunities to get more workforce development. Employment opportunities, financial literacy training that will allow people to be able to have a better understanding of income and how to utilize that income.”

Spencer said they’ll believe change is coming when they see it.

“It’s not really too much to like about this place. It needs a lot of updating, a lot of remodeling,” Spencer said. “My unit has never been repainted and I’ve asked several times for that. They never come and fix these things here. Screen doors broke.”

Organizers said the goal of the project is to combine new low-income and market-rate apartments and townhomes while making the area safer and more connected.

“Just demolition of the housing and new construction is a huge piece. Today we celebrate and then tomorrow we roll up our sleeves and we really get to work,” Wilber said. “A lot of the folks in the community have experienced a lot of trauma. Folks have a lot of safety concerns. They want not just a safer space, but places where they can seek healing and community and connection.”

Project collaborators have a total of six years to spend all $35 million and Smith said she hopes those in charge will put their money where their mouth is.

“I have grandkids. I don't even really like them to play out here because it’s a lot of shootings and stuff,” Smith said. “We’re going to have to wait and see what happens. You know, you can say that all day, but you’ve got to show me.”